What Are the Health Benefits of Coconuts & Coconut Oil?

{ Posted on Jul 11 2015 by admin }

The Coconut Research Center reports that approximately one-third of the world population relies on coconut and coconut products for nourishment and economic growth. Coconuts are the fruit of the Cocos nucifera tree, which is revered as “The Tree of Life” because nearly all of its elements, from the roots to the fronds, are useful for sustaining life. In particular, the coconut and its oil are valued sources of nutrition and medicine.

Nutrition: The nutritional value of the coconut is dependent upon its stage of maturity. The mature coconut, which contains the thick white meat known as copra, contains more fiber, protein, carbohydrate and fat compared to the green, or immature, coconut, which predominately consists of water with a small amount of white flesh that is jelly-like in consistency. Coconut also contains essential vitamins and minerals, such as vitamin C, thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, iron, manganese, selenium and potassium. Coconuts are a rich source of fat energy, with approximately 35 to 40 percent of the copra consisting of coconut oil, which is predominately made up of medium chain saturated fatty acids.

Cardiovascular Health: The high saturated fat content of coconut and coconut oil has led to the perception that consuming them will increase cholesterol levels, which is a risk factor for cardiovascular disease; however, their medium chain saturated fatty acids are metabolized differently than long chain saturated fatty acids found in meat and butter. They do not aid in the synthesis or transport of cholesterol. Instead, they are metabolized in the liver to be used as energy. Medium chain saturated fatty acids, such as those in coconut and coconut oil, have been shown to have favorable effects on total cholesterol and low density lipoprotein cholesterol levels. Researcher Marie-Pierre St-Onge, Ph.D., and colleagues reported in the October 2008 issue of the “Journal of the American College of Nutrition” that subjects fed medium chain triglycerides as part of a 16-week weight-loss program experienced decreases in total cholesterol and low density lipoprotein cholesterol concentrations.

Weight Management: Coconut and coconut oil may play a role in weight loss. Researchers from Brazil reported in the July 2009 issue of “Lipids” that subjects with abdominal obesity experienced decreases in both body mass index and waist circumference values when given coconut oil supplements for 12 weeks. Participants who received soybean oil supplements during this same period showed reductions in body mass index measurements only. The investigators concluded that coconut oil supplementation could help to decrease abdominal obesity.

Enhanced Immune System Function: Coconut and coconut oil contain lauric acid, a medium chain fatty acid. The body converts lauric acid into monolaurin, which is a monoglyceride that has antibacterial, antiviral and antiprotozoal properties. Monolaurin fights against pathogens, such as influenza and listeria monocytogenes. In addition, coconut and coconut oil contain capric acid, which is another medium chain fatty acid. It is converted into monocaprin in the body. Monocaprin has antiviral and antibacterial properties that protect against sexually transmitted diseases, such as HIV and chlamydia.

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